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New Anderson District 5 eLearning program will eliminate 'snow days'

Anderson School District 5 will be the first in South Carolina to try an eLearning program that will eliminate makeup days caused by bad weather.

Anderson School District 5 will be the first in South Carolina to try an eLearning program that will eliminate makeup days caused by bad weather.

"With today's technology, it makes so much sense, from the practical standpoint and financially," said District 5 Superintendent Tom Wilson, who proposed the idea to the state's Education Oversight Committee (EOC) in May. "Technology has changed every profession, and we have the technology in place to keep kids working during the snow days and eliminate the makeup days.

"I think we will be a good model for the state," he added. "We've invested $11 million in Chromebooks in the last five years, and this enables us to make use of it."

The district has been selected as the state's pilot program for the upcoming school year.

The eLearning days will enable the district to operate with a firm calendar in 2018-19, with no inclement weather makeup days. If snow or ice hit, students will access assignments via their Chromebooks, which do not require internet service.

Students unable to complete the work because of any technology issues will get a five-day grace period.

"No longer will we need to run buses mid-June for a makeup day that only a quarter of our students attend," Wilson said. "We have the resources in Anderson 5, and doing this allows us to utilize those resources to their fullest extent."

Anna Baldwin, District 5 director of eLearning and integration, said the project will also help parents, who will be able to plan summer activities without having to consider makeup days. The technology also will enhance teachers' ability to communicate with the students, she said.

"On days when the eLearning is implemented, the teacher can look at the progress of the student's work, and if they're struggling, the teacher can ask questions or recommend a video or a document that might help.

"It really takes down some of the barriers," Baldwin said. "We're at the point where not everybody has to be in the classroom with the teacher in order for the learning to continue."

Any eLearning days will count toward the 180 school days required by the state.

The eLearning day will be announced in the school closings on local news, the school messenger calls, and on the district website. Students will find their assignments loaded electronically into Google

Classroom, a learning management system that all teachers use within their classroom to provide lessons, resources and support from the teacher.

Students can submit the work for the assignment through Google Classroom. Teachers will be available throughout the day via virtual office hours to answer questions from students or their parent or guardian.

Robert Anderson Middle School principal Leonard Galloway expects students to react favorably, in part because they are accustomed to the technology, and teachers will benefit.

"From an educator's standpoint, it's easy to plan for the expected. It's the unexpected things, like snow days, that disrupt schedules and teaching plans. This will enable teachers to stay on schedule," Galloway said.

"I feel good about it. I'm excited that Anderson is leading the way. I think we can be the model for other districts."

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